How To Mess With Media

It's a great time to be in media.

There’s a lot going on right now, past the mostly necessary ad tech and targeting bloopity bloop. Like the changing dynamics of how people pay for content, the renaissance in audio, the emigration of pop culture from Hollywood to gaming, or the emergence of NFTs as a useful marketing tool. Meanwhile, linear TV, movie theaters, experiential marketing and even direct mail are facing forced reinvention.

Nothing stays still in media, and that's part of the fun.

Here’s how to take advantage.

1. Mess with rigidity. Breaking the artificial rigidity of media space can help dramatize an idea more powerfully.

Reddit bought a 5-second Super Bowl ad, while Tide used the same opportunity to blend its message with on-air talent. In Barcelona, Aldi broke the rules of newspaper lead times with an “Inception”-likecampaign that showed real photography of its fresh produce wrapped in the day’s front page of the very paper it appeared in. It was undoubtedly a feat of both negotiation and production.



2. Create space. No law compels brands to buy off a rate card. Media can be almost anything.

Glade (and DDB Chicago) took advantage of air-filled packing pillows in Walmart boxes to sample its new fragrance.

Early in the pandemic, LA agency Zambezi used alarmingly empty shelf space to run PSAs about unnecessary hoarding.

These are the kind of tactics that make other media people mad for not thinking of them first.

3. Get in early. Like people, as media properties mature, they become less flexible.

In 2010, Facebook had fewer ad units than they do now, but more ways to mess with the platform overall. Unfriending 100 people for a Whopper would breach their policy today, since Facebook prefers us to dutifully buy carousel ads. Like other QSRs, Burger King experiments early with ascendent platforms and technologies. it was early on Chat Roulette, just as it has been with NFTs. iHOP has already created a Clubhouse around the sound of sizzling bacon.

As platforms scale they tighten up, so the very best time to mess with media is before the sales team have crystalized their ad product.

4. Remix. Using one medium more like another can unlock new ideas.

Coupons can't create headlines -- yet Burkger King's Whopper Detour remixed the idea of geo-targeting by rewarding people when they were within 600 feet of a McDonald's.

Print isn't interactive, and you shouldn't pee on ads. Yet Ikea created a print ad that legitimately worked as a pregnancy test. A positive result unlocked membership to the Ikea Family Cub.

5. Delete the RFP. Much of the work here didn’t come out of an RFP or via the ad sales team.

Different phone calls were made, other parts of organizations were involved, and the ratecard was redundant. Working outside the sales bureaucracy isn't the only way to get things done, but sometimes working inside it will defeat a bold idea before it has a chance.

Verizon (and Two Things) ingeniously created a cellular network within Minecraft allowing users to call people outside the virtual world. There's no RFP that gets this done.

So, be bold and go f@#$ with media.

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